Sing: How Great Thou Art, UMH 77
It is reputed to be the oldest town on earth. The Israelites brought down its walls with a great shout and trumpet blasts. Here Jesus healed Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, and dined with Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector. Cleopatra and Herod the Great both coveted this lush oasis and competed for its resources.
The name Jericho means City of Palms and it still lives up to its name. Water from Jericho’s powerful perennial spring provides irrigation for abundant fruit, flowers, and spices. “When the orange and lemon trees are in bloom, in the spring, the air is so heavy with their perfume that the visitor is sure he could bottle some of it and take it home with him,” writes archeologist Godfrey Kloetzli. The spring is associated with the prophet Elisha, who purified its waters by throwing salt into it. In addition to being the oldest town on earth Jericho is also the lowest town on earth at over 820 feet below sea level.
Tel al Sultan
The first hunter-gatherers settled here around 9000 BC. Archeologists have unearthed the remains of more than twenty successive settlements at Tel al Sultan (or Sultan’s Hill), a sun-baked earthen mound a mile and a half north of the modern city of Jericho. The fifty feet tall mound was formed over the centuries as towns were destroyed and new ones were built on their rubble. The most striking discovery unearthed is a thick-walled stone tower, twenty-three feet high and twenty-five feet across, dating back to 7000 BC.
Near the center of the city, a centuries-old sycamore tree recalls the incident in which the tax collector Zacchaeus, too short to see over the crowd, climbed a sycamore tree’s branches in order to see Jesus. The African sycamore fig should not be confused with the sycamore of Europe and North America, which is a different species.
The Mount of Temptation
The Mount of Temptation, with a gravity-defying monastery clinging to its sheer face, is traditionally regarded as the mountain on which Christ was tempted by the devil after his 40-day fast. The summit of the mount, about 1,200 feet above sea level, offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab and Gilead.
Traditions dating from the 12th century place two of the devil’s temptings on the Mount of Temptation. The temptation to turn a stone into bread is located in a grotto halfway up the mountain. The offer of all the kingdoms of the world in return for worshipping the devil is located on the summit.
We only had two or three hours in Jericho – I would like to come back and spend two or three days here! And then make the climb to Jerusalem. It is good to have dreams.